Tooth cavities – think once, think twice, think prevention!

Cavities in teeth are caused by bacteria producing acids from refined carbohydrates (sugar), -no sugar – no cavities, no bacteria – no cavities, no tooth – no cavities.

cartoon of a molar tooth with a star shaped hole - decay

You brush your teeth to disrupt plaque and reduce the overall quantity and quality of the bacteria, brushing your teeth is not directly related to preventing cavities as most areas that decay aren’t accessible with toothbrush.

In fact, theoretically, brushing before meals might actually be better than afterwards as bacteria/sugars make saliva more acidic. Unlikely to be significant for most people however.

Reducing bacterial load helps prevent gum disease, potential cavities and bad breath. Gum disease and the bacteria at work is associated with inflammatory markers in the blood and Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD).

Flossing is the only way of cleaning the point at which one tooth touches another – (the contact point) – a common area to develop cavities.

Fissure sealants (F/S) help prevent decay in grooves – remember, if there are no grooves occurring naturally, you don’t need F/S done. Baby teeth often are quite flat and without grooves. If it’s got grooves you can consider sealing them, ask your dentist.

Brushing twice a day is better than brushing once a day. Brushing before you go to bed is beneficial as salivary flow slows at night – less chance to wash away any damaging bacteria, acids or chemicals.

The effect of certain Chewable Vitamins on tooth decay

Vitamins are good for your health. Chewable vitamins may have the nutrients you need to stay healthy, but if they come in a sticky, sugary form, they may be as harmful as sticky sweets or candies. This is especially rue for children who may have a higher decay rate.

Chewable vitamins stick to your teeth, giving cavity-causing bacteria more time to hang out and dig cavities.The solution? Ditch the ‘gummies’ and take your vitamins in pill form. If you’ve got picky kids, shoot for a sugar-free solution for their vitamins.

The effect of dried fruits on tooth decay

Dried fruit is another surprising oral-health offender. While certain fresh fruits can support your oral health, dried fruit is full of non-cellulose fiber that traps sticky sugars on teeth and gums in the same way that chewable vitamins do.

The solution? 

Stick to fresh, fibrous fruit like apples and pears. These fruits have high water content, which helps dilute the negative effects of sugars and stimulates saliva production. And more saliva means more protection against tooth decay by washing away cavity-causing acids.

The effect of cough and other medicines on tooth decay

When you’re coughing, sneezing and congested, you probably reach for cough syrup or throat lozenges to find some relief from the seasonal crud, But whether in cough drop or syrup form, cough medicine can be less than healthy for your teeth.

Cough medicine and throat lozenges often contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup, both highly refined carbohydrates and potentially bad news for your oral health. And if you take your medicine right before you go to bed, this means the sugar can linger in your mouth all night and slowly erode your teeth.

The solution? Always brush your teeth before or after you take cough syrup. Choose sugar-free throat lozenges and cough syrups where possible. Ensure you or the sufferer practices excellent oral hygiene ( brushing. flossing, inter dental cleaners, etc.) during illness – it’ll make you feel better and improve your recovery.

The effect of white wine on tooth decay

If you’ve ever enjoyed a glass of red wine, you may have noticed your teeth looking a little purple afterward. That’s because red wine — like coffee and tea — contains tannins, acids and chromogens, which are a trifecta for staining teeth.

White wine can actually harmful to teeth due to its acidic nature – more so than red wine which is traditionally what one would assume stains to the greatest degree.

Because white wine is highly acidic, the acid can break down important minerals in your teeth that help protect the enamel from erosion, like calcium.

And although white wine itself may not stain your teeth, the acids and tannins in the wine can make your tooth enamel more porous. This can in turn make your teeth more susceptible to absorbing colour from other staining foods and drinks.

The solution? 

While brushing your teeth right after drinking a glass of white wine may not sound appetizing, you could try curbing some of the damage eating cheese too (a great combination) as the dairy product fats coat and protect the tooth’s surface – also true (to a degree of certain chocolates.

The calcium in cheese can help strengthen your tooth enamel against the wine’s acidity, and chewing cheese helps produce saliva which protects against decay-causing bacteria. Plus, who doesn’t love a good wine and cheese pairing?

No need to become paranoid – just become aware.

The effect of swimming pool water on tooth decay

You may shower off after a dip in the pool to protect your skin and hair from the effects of chlorine. But did you know pool water can be bad for your teeth, too?

Chemical additives in pool water, like antimicrobials and chlorine, give the water a higher pH than your saliva. This acidity can lead to tooth sensitivity and the growth of brown tartar deposits on your teeth.

If you own a swimming pool, be sure to test and monitor the water’s pH levels throughout the summer — the ideal pH levels for your pool water should be between 7.2 and 7.8. But if you’re swimming laps at the public pool, you don’t have control over the chlorine levels.

The solution? 

Keep your mouth closed as much as you can while swimming (not easy for kids!) , and rinse with tap water or mouth rinse once you get out of the water.

Some consider wearing a water-tight mouth guard while swimming to protect your teeth from prolonged exposure to chlorine but these can make things worse as the hold acidic water against the teeth.

Don’t forget the impact of pool-side snacks too. No need to become paranoid – just become aware.

The effect of pool-side safety on dental health.

Pools are fun in the summer and a chance to congregate to have fun, often with friends, family and children. Its a good idea to draw guidelines up so that the fun continues the whole day through.

Many tooth accidents happen in and around pools. Use common sense and avoid running or the edge of the pool. Failure to use common sense while enjoying the pool may result in an unplanned visit to your dentist and an unexpected bill. The consequences may colour the rest of the victims life.

No need to become paranoid – just become aware – an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of care in this case.

The effect of bar-be-que sauce on tooth decay

A summer staple that can be surprisingly harmful for your teeth can be found at your backyard barbecue!

Barbecue sauce can be sugar rich, like all tasty foods check the label and decide on balance the desire factor! Sugar free Barbecue sauce is difficult to get, which seems crazy really. The same reasons that make barbecue sauce an effective marinade make it hard on your teeth — just like barbecue sauce clings to meat, it clings to the enamel and marinates your teeth with sugar.

Thick BBQ sauce on 'wings'

The solution? Choose a low-sugar BBQ sauce to cut down on your chances for dental decay, and brush/floss before the party.

The first recorded mention in 1672 and George Washington mentions attending a “barbecue” in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1769 – it is not believed that they used sugary BBQ sauce, although George Washington did have full dentures!

The effect of oral piercing on oral health

Not that I’m expecting you to have any, but some will know some who do – tongue, cheek and lip piercings may fit style, but they can potentially create a lot of oral health issues down the line.

Your mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria, and piercings in or near your mouth create a gateway for bacteria to enter your oral tissue, which can lead to sensitivity, swelling or infections.

A tongue or lip piercing could potentially crack or chip a tooth if you accidentally bite down on either, or by repetitively hitting against your tooth enamel.

The solution? 

Try to keep your mouth and the piercing site clean by using mouthwash after every meal. Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any sign of redness, swelling or infection near the piercing, and be sure to go to the dentist at least once a year for a regular checkup or cleaning.

Prolonged exposure to any of the above potentially harmful things for your teeth could lead to decay, sensitivity, tooth pain or even a dental emergency. and tooth loss.

The effect of energy/sports drinks on tooth decay

Consider the acidity of sports drinks.

The effect of your dentist on tooth decay

Ask your dentist if an area of pre-decay can be reviewed in 6 months and ask for advice to mineralize the early lesion.

The effect of snacks on tooth decay

Frequency is important too, because the saliva doesn’t get a chance to neutralize any acids. Peanuts and cheese are clearly less of a threat than boiled sweets.

The effect of alcohol on tooth decay

People who have alcohol use disorder tend to have higher plaque levelsTrusted Source on their teeth and are three timesTrusted Source as likely to experience permanent tooth loss.

Dental Care and Oral Disease in Alcohol Dependent Persons

But are moderate drinkers at risk for serious tooth and mouth disease? There isn’t much conclusive medical evidence. Dentists say that they see the effects of moderate drinking regularly, however.


The colour in alcoholic drinks comes from chromogens, these attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acid in alcohol, staining teeth. One way to bypass this is to drink alcoholic drinks with a straw!


drinks high in alcohol, like spirits, dry the mouth. Saliva keeps teeth moist and its flow helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Try to stay hydrated by drinking water if you drink alcohol.

Other damage

Both ice and lemon can damage teeth, ice from fracture and lemon from erosion.

The effect of smoking on tooth decay

Tooth decay in alcohol and tobacco abusers

Smoking is harmful to health, and the oral tissues.

Chemicals in tobacco products affect saliva flow in the mouth, making it easier for oral bacteria to adhere to teeth and gums. If not removed daily, it can harden into tartar, or scale also known as calculus, a substance so hard it requires a professional cleaning to remove.

Smokers are three to six times more likely to develop gum disease or periodontal disease, which can attack roots and cause teeth to fall out.

Even smokeless tobacco products can irritate gum tissue, causing gums to loosen around teeth, making it easier for bacteria to settle in and develop decay.

Smokeless tobacco products can also irritate and damage gum tissue

Alcohol interferes with blood circulation – smoking affects the normal function of gum tissue, causing infections and restricting blood flow. It also delays healing after oral surgery or treatment of gum disease. This makes the recovery process difficult. When brushing or flossing, smokers may notice that their gums bleed more easily.

Alcohol consumption can lead to oral cancer – about 90% of people diagnosed with oral or lip cancer used tobacco. Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.

Alcohol changes teeth and breath – Smoking can stain teeth to a yellow colour and also cause bad breath (especially the day after!)

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, dental costs will rise sharply – prevention makes sense financially more than ever before!


Dental disease prevention - tools for the public
Dental disease prevention – tools for the public

Stephen Bray DDS

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